We had the good fortune of connecting with Maja Trochimczyk and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Maja, what are you inspired by?
Inspiration comes and goes, like the whimsical Muse that appears and disappears at will. On a bright winter morning, I drove into the mountains to take a perfect photo of the snow on the hilltops, but it was melting, so my drive turned into a quest, and then into a poem… I call these types of short poems “freeway poetry” – refining them in memory makes driving fun – much better than road rage, I can assure you! Mountains, ocean, gardens, birds, trees – are an endless fount of inspiration, especially in the sunny California, still exotic to this Polish-born, immigrant poet. The light is so dazzling here, so vibrant – different, than further up north. I’m also a photographer of roses, petals, leaves and sky… I capture to keep what I love, the most intense experiences and impressions of this fleeting world, and the endless light hidden within. After my Mom died and the stories she told me about her life under the Soviet and German occupations during WWII started to get all mixed up in my memory, I wrote them down, the best I could, as poems, and a book “Slicing the Bread” (Finishing Line Press, 2014) was born in a month. My focus was less on suffering than on resilience – no need to whine about the inevitable. How to survive and thrive – now, that’s a topic worthy of attention. Artworks, especially painting with vivid colors, are quite inspiring, too – Giovanni di Paolo’s illustrations to Dante’s “Il Paradiso,” Van Gogh, Leonardo, and paintings by Susan Dobay, Steven Linsteadt and other California artists whose works suddenly speak to me. A poem may come when I swim, or work in the garden, or sit in a boring meeting. It may come in a dream, and the trick is to write it down as soon as possible. Poetry captures the essence of the world, its ineffable beauty, the subtle energy vibrating in every particle, every moment.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
A native-speaker of Polish, I never thought I’d become an English-language poet and when I read my poems in public that the audiences will be so silent, so attentive to every word. The first time it happened, it really surprised me – from my listeners I learned that what I have to say deserves being heard. Raised in Poland by two engineers, I was a granddaughter of a folk-fiddler, and my Mom’s love for music led me to a music school and, eventually, a Ph.D. in musicology (McGill University, Montreal, Canada). I never liked being a performer, so I picked the role of an observer, commenting from the sidelines. What did the composer think or want to say? Why? Much as I love music history, sharing my own ideas and stories instead of commenting about others feels so liberating, so exhilarating. I’m often told that as a poet, I do have a recognizable voice – I seek to uplift and delight, capture the ephemeral beauty and subtle shifts of emotion, ascending into the light. I may find philosophical reflections in weeding my garden, nostalgia in a cake. Writing poetry is an act of naming, an act of knowing deeply. This art of the true Word creates the world anew. I am very glad that I came to writing poetry through reading it on my own, first in Polish translations, then in bilingual editions, and finally in the original. I am also very glad that I wrote for years without seeking publication – this helped me find my voice, unencumbered by other people’s opinion of me. I even started my own small press, Moonrise Press, to publish my verse without editorial interventions. By now, I publish other poets and writers, too. I edit the California Quarterly, serve as President of the California State Poetry Society… I’m extremely happy to be a member of a poetry group called Westside Women Writers – nine middle-aged women of various backgrounds and interests, brought together by shared love of poetry and desire to perfect their craft. In WWW workshops, I found that when most of my friends say that a line or word is wrong, superficial, trite, or out of place – it most definitely is wrong! Reading poetry to attentive audiences is also a great way of polishing a poem. I read poems silently to myself when I write: rhythm is so important! But this is not enough, you do have to get on the stage and be truly heard. My greatest challenge is the reason I started writing in English – being able to capture and express the most subtle shades of emotion, paint the most intricate picture of the world seen through my eyes. And to do it in a language that I’m gradually making my own. With a foreign accent.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live at the edge of the Angeles National Forest, and look at mountains changing colors every day, so when guests come here, my very first trip is to the Big Tujunga Wash, the valley five minutes from home. We may walk to the stream, when there is still water, or admire the towering yuccas in June that make us feel like Lilliputians in a Giants’ country. If it is windy, we might fly kites from the Rim of the Valley trail; it has a perfect spot for kites! Then, we would go to the Back Door Bakery for lunch, enjoy their salmon Greek salad, and an assortment of amazing croissants (my son, raised in Europe, calls them the best in the U.S.). We could also get sushi rolls from Sake Sake, or ahi-tuna salad from Joselito’s in Tujunga. When it is time to drive and sight-see, the first trip would be to the Huntington Library, its amazing gardens and collections, with the Rose Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Guttenberg Bible, and the portrait gallery of British aristocrats as the most important stops. Plus a chamber music concert on a summer evening, sitting on the grass…We could also visit Descanso Gardens to walk through the camellia forest. Then, we would spend a day at the Getty Center with its ancient manuscripts and European impressionists, and the views extending to the ocean over the massive freeways and endless blocks of buildings in a city with over 4 million inhabitants. A quick tour of DTLA would follow, with mandatory stops at the Disney Hall and the El Pueblo area of Olvera Street to get some souvenirs. We’d go to hear the L.A. Philharmonic either at Disney Hall or the Hollywood Bowl in the summer – a quintessential picnic-under-the-stars experience, not to be missed. We would visit the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena for another day trip with lunch in their café, and have dinner in one of the small restaurants of the picturesque Montrose. Ready to venture further, we’d drive down to Arden, Helena Modjeska Historic Home in Orange County, or spend an afternoon at one of the expansive beaches in Oxnard – with smooth sand and “champagne” waves, plus views of the Channel Islands. We could also take a boat trip to see the whales and dolphins passing by. Talking about islands, Catalina is a must, with plenty to enjoy – silly little boating trips, driving a golf cart around town… What’s a vacation without being silly?   
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would not be who I am without my three amazing children, the greatest achievement of my life.  I am extremely grateful to wonderful women poets from Southern California who have helped me grow as a poet, inspired me with their art, and enriched my life with their friendship. First, Kath Abela Wilson, described by a Tarot reader as the Lady of Pentacles, and by a composer friend as a magical presence in my life, helped me with my first steps as a poet in California. She invited me to write and read at many Poets on Site events; featured my work at her home Poetry Salon; recorded it for the Pacific Asia Museum exhibits, and inspired me in more ways than I can list here. Second, the four-person Spiritual Quartet, with Lois P. Jones, Susan Rogers and Ambika Talwar expanded my horizons to different dimensions of spirituality and ecstatic poetry inspired by ancient traditions and personal revelations. We held many readings together and later all joined the writing group Westside Women Writers, formed by the indefatigable Millicent Borges Accardi, with amazing poets Kathi Stafford and Georgia Jones-Davis. We were joined by Sonya Sabanac and Madeleine Butcher, each enriching the group with individual insights and talents. We have been meeting monthly for over ten years, and these workshops helped to bring out, purify and perfect my individual voice. Our tenth anniversary was celebrated in 2018 with an anthology “Grateful Conversations” I co-edited with Kathi Stafford, containing poems from selected on-site workshops and self-portraits in poetry by all members. We held several wonderful readings from this anthology and continue learning from each other. Other female poets have inspired or taught me a lot, to mention only Marlene Hitt and Dorothy Skiles who co-founded Village Poets of Sunland-Tujunga and helped me become their Poet Laureate No. 6 in 2010-2012. Margaret Saine introduced me to the California State Poetry Society; Alice Pero featured me at Moonday Poetry Readings; Elena Secota brought me to the Rapp Saloon. The Scenic Drive Gallery of artist Susan Dobay in Monrovia was the site of many great readings with Poets on Site and my very first solo photography exhibit in 2013. I’m grateful for the presence of my Polish American friends in my life, especially members of the Board of the Helena Modjeska Art and Culture Club in Los Angeles; together we bring Polish culture to California.  If I were still in Poland, I would have been told I could not become a poet nor a photographer, because my Masters’ degrees are both in music. Luckily, we live in the land of the free, where we can reinvent ourselves and rediscover hidden talents with help of so many generous, insightful and supportive friends. I cannot list them all here, but they know who they are – and I’m profoundly grateful for all they have done for me and others.

Website: moonrisepress.com

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maja-trochimczyk-2994178/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maja.trochimczyk

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/MoonrisePress

Other: CaliforniaStatePoetrySociety.com; PoetryLaurels.blogspot.com; my playlist on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3q7UTBe4d0f-JhchmDRTqBodFgEOF9IH

Image Credits
photo of “Chopin” poets with a piano – Emil E. Schultz, Jr.; Portrait at the rose exhibit – Lucyna Przasnyski; Photo with Rick Wilson on flute – Kath Abela Wilson; Photo with a book in gold – Kath Abela Wilson; Cover photo in a hat – Susan Rogers.

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